Returning from Southern Germany in late october 1872, George Eliot and G.H. Lewes made the mistake of travelling overnight by train from Strasbourg to Paris. The strain and discomfort of the journey, as she recalled in a letter from Boulogne, ‘set us both wrong, and Paris was not the place to set us right again’ (L, iv: 319). She immediately came to ‘loathe [the] splendours and frivolity’ of the city and the couple fled North to the sea air and relative peace of Boulogne, where they tried ‘to recover the sense of benefit from our change, which forsook us on quitting old Germany’ (L, v: 318). The press and pressure of Parisian life had given rise to ‘headache and horrible disgust with the shops of the Rue de la Paix’, but it also prompted reflection on the kind of setting they preferred, leading her to conclude that ‘we have an affinity for what the world calls “dull places” and always prosper best in them’ (Ibid.). ‘old’ Germany was just such a place: old in the sense of being backward and provincial by comparison with metropolitan Paris, the capital city of modernity, but old, too, in the hold that it had long had on the couple’s affections, reaching back to the happiness of the first months of their life together in Weimar in 1854. This ‘dear old’ Germany was, of course, beginning to change radically by 1872 in the immediate aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War: newly unified under Prussian leadership as the Second German Empire, the country was on the way to becoming the dominant power in Continental Europe. The contrast between worldly, modern, unsettling Paris – and, by extension, France – and backward, slow-paced and sympathetically accommodating Germany may thus already have been something of an anachronism by this date, yet it epitomizes the opposing roles that the two countries, and cultures, played in George Eliot’s intellectual and creative life from her earliest days as a writer. To trace that opposition through her writing is to observe a running debate between the competing claims of what she saw to be two ‘differing forms of civilization’ (L, v: 113), between the claims of modernity and revolution on the one hand, and tradition and evolution on the other. It is a debate that takes up at the level of national cultures a central concern of her fiction, her great project, as Neil Hertz has put it, of ‘adjudicating the claims of the past – the case for continuity, the legitimacy of rupture’.1